Results tagged ‘ Livan Hernandez ’

Ayala’s On Assignment (And Not The James Bond-Secret Spy Kind)

d47b_2.jpgUsually, when I hear that someone is “on assignment”, I think of something like this.  Guns firing, things blowing up, cool gadgets, and a guy in a suit who always gets the girl.

Unfortunately, for Mr. Ayala, his “assignment” will be the kind of trip where a stunt like this might be the most exciting baseball-related action that happens on any given day (thus is life in the minors for a former major leaguer).

To replace Ayala, the Twins called up Bobby Keppel (a righthanded pitcher who has both relieved and started) from the AAA Rochester Red Wings.

 

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This is a move that, at least I felt, needed to be made quite a long time ago.  After only a month or so, it was pretty clear the kind of pitcher Ayala is now.  He can play the law of averages (much like Livan Hernandez before him), but on too many occasions he will give up the big dinger or just plain get hammered by batter after batter.

With Craig Breslow, Jesse Crain, and now Ayala gone from the pen, I actually like the direction this is heading.  Besides Sean Henn, the Twins are moving away from the re-treads holding on for one last hope and more towards the future.  Yes, it is a full-bore rebuilding effort, but the Twins have always had a knack for doing that kind of thing on the fly.  In all honesty, we seem to handle changes better DURING the season than before or after it.

Unless one of our current pitchers really struggles or gets hurt, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ayala never resurfaces in a Twins major league uniform.

One That May Have Gotten Away

Korecky.jpgI was very surprised to learn yesterday that the Twins lost right-handed reliever Bobby Korecky to the Arizona Diamondbacks via wavers.  Besides his exciting extra-inning base hit in that crazy game last season, I was very impressed with his poise on the mound.  Give him another year, and he could become a major-league reliever, with closer status not far behind (he was the primary closer for the Twins’ Triple-A team the past two seasons).

I think what’s even more bitter is that we lost him to fill a spot for Luis Ayala.  Personally, I think Ayala will be one of those guys who will stick around for a few months (probably a month too long, if the Livan Hernandez experiment showed us anything last season) and then be gone due to just plain old bad pitching.  Thus, I think letting Korecky go for Ayala is a mistake that, although it may not be season-breaking, is one that may haunt the Twins a bit when/if Korecky makes it big somewhere else.

Notes:

-In other Twins news, Gardy mentioned the other day that he would love to have Dennys Reyes (who is still a free agent) back in his pen.  While I can see the rationale (Reyes did have his moments against lefty batters), there were just too many times last season where the Big Sweat would come in and walk the only batter he was asked to face, or throw one in the dirt and allow a baserunner to advance.  Craig Breslow can do just as good of a job against lefties and throw less wildly in the process.

-Tomorrow night, I will give my thoughts on the signing of Joe Crede to a one year contract.

SP: The Four Horseman and One Stud

LirianoReview.jpgLast offseason, the Twins lost arguably the top three starters from their pitching rotation in Johan Santana, Matt Garza, and Carlos Silva, as the money just wasn’t there to sign them to long-term contracts.  So, heading into the 2008 season, the starting rotation was the biggest question mark of the team.

Remarkably, though, by the end of the season, the Twins had again dug deep within their organization and (big props to pitching coach Rick Anderson) built a solid starting rotation.  Here is how the starters performed over the course of the season:

Livan “Fat Man” Hernandez (10-8, 139.7 IP, 5.48 ERA): The Twins signed the Fat Man before the start of the season in order to give their starting rotation some veteran experience, but he was a colossal failure.  He benefited from some extremely good luck (to get those 10 wins), with his only talent being the ability to throw a complete game nearly every start (of course, he would surely give up five runs).  Hernandez was jettisoned at the end of July.

Francisco Liriano (6-4, 76, 3.91): In 2006, the Cisco Kid wowed Twins fans with his biting slider and extremely live fastball before rupturing his arm and needing Tommy John surgery to tidy it up.  After taking 2007 off, then, Twins fans had high hopes for Cisco in ’08.  At first, things took a terrible twist, as Liriano (in his first few starts with the big club since ’06) could not throw strikes and got hammered even by poor teams like Kansas City.  After just three starts and an 11.32 ERA in April, Liriano was sent back to the minors to work out the kinks.  He returned in August and looked much more like the Liriano of old, striking out more batters with higher velocity.  He struggled a bit at the end of the season, but clearly has the potential to be the staff ace in ’09.

Scott Baker (11-4, 172.3, 3.45): With Santana a Met, the Twins were counting on Baker to be the rock of their rotation in a year where Liriano would still be gaining his footing.  The success of Baker, though, depends on how you look at it: Usually, Baker did live up to the moniker of staff ace, mowing down batters in a Liriano-like fashion when he was on.  However, Baker also struggled mightily with pitch count, often leaving games after just five innings and putting more strain on an already-brittle bullpen (more in further posts)…not what you want out of your ace.

Kevin Slowey (12-11, 160.3, 3.99): The Twins were looking for Slowey to take the next step in his development as a major league pitcher, and by and large he did just that.  Injuries prevented him from achieving the 200 inning plateau, and he (like Baker) also struggled with pitch counts and leaving games early.  When he’s on his game, it’s eerily similar to watching the departed Brad Radke ply his trade.

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 193.3, 4.05): Judging on past experience, Blackie turned in the most remarkable season of all Twins starting pitchers in 2008.  A complete unknown coming into the season, Blackburn nearly reached 200 innings and spun a legendary game in the one-game playoff against the White Sox (although sadly he was not rewarded for his effort).  He’s a sinkerball pitcher, so either he was getting his ground balls, or the balls were flying out of the park.

Glen Perkins (12-4, 151, 4.41): After missing nearly an entire season due to injuries, Perkins (a former Golden Gopher) latched on to the fifth starter position and didn’t let go for nearly the entire season.  He was arguably the Twins’ most consistent pitcher in the middle months of the season, but seemed to tire (or just stink) down the stretch, raising some concerns about his strength.

So, the 2008 Twins were able to put together a remarkable young rotation (no one older than 26) that pitched them to within one Jim Thome home run of the playoffs.  Of course, with that youth brings question marks for ’09: Can Perkins hold up over a whole season?  Can Baker and Slowey manage their pitch counts better?  Can Blackburn get the sinker working more times than not?  Can Liriano get back to version.2006?

Looking ahead to 2009, Perkins’ spot in the rotation may be in jeopardy due to the emergence of young starter Anthony Swarzak (5-0 in Triple-A).  Other than that, the starting rotation looks to be, at the very least, competent.

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